The UConn baseball team traveled to Kennesaw, Georgia last Thursday night for a weekend series with the No. 24 Kennesaw State Owls, who came in at 5-2 on the year, and expected to take care of business against the 2-4 Huskies.
That did not happen.
Led by complete, "team" performances in the first two games of the series, this tough team from up north is now starting to put some wins together.
The scouting report on the Owls was that their biggest weakness was in the field, as they had committed a whopping 17 errors in their first seven games. UConn came out aggressive from the start, leading off the series with a single by Jack Sundberg (one of two in the game for him), and pressured Kennesaw State's defense into committing three errors.
The Husky offense was able to take advantage of the miscues, pounding out 11 hits on their way to a 5-3 win to kick off the series.
Jon Testani and Vinny Siena led the way for the offense with three hits apiece.
Head coach Jim Penders said he was vey pleased with the team's at-bats, "They did a really good job of embracing grinding out at bats. I liked our at bats. Guys executed and I thought we did a good job running the bases."
The Huskies were able to steal six bases, led by a career high three from Bryan Daniello, and two from Sundberg. The Huskies were 15-6 last season when Sundberg stole at least one base.
On the mound, Carson Cross went five and two thirds innings, notching a career-high 11 strikeouts.
"Carson was really good," Penders said. "We need that Friday night guy to go as long as we can. We were kind of pushing him to get one more out there [in the sixth], but we saw the one, two, and three hitters coming up and said ‘let's get him out of there.'"
After one and a third scoreless innings by Devin Over, Nico Darras came on to record a six-out save, his first of the year.
The story in the middle game of the three game series against the Owls was the shutdown performance by Anthony Kay.
The sophomore was nearly unhittable, pitching eight shut out innings, giving up only a pair of two out singles and two walks, striking out eight on his way to his first win of the season.
UConn pitching coach Josh MacDonald was impressed with the left-hander's performance.
"He got into a really nice rhythm today and he had three pitches going for him, he was moving the fastball in and out, he had them guessing, and he didn't let anybody on. No freebies," MacDonald said.
Trevor Holmes came on to pitch a scoreless ninth, giving the Huskies their first shutout since May 13th, 2014 against Rhode Island
MacDonald said that the starters are doing a good job so far of setting the tone for both the bullpen and the rest of the team.
"The pitching staff is going to be good if the guys at the front do their job because what it does is it leaves the bullpen fresh and it gives everybody confidence," MacDonald Said. "I think you see that our team goes down to every game thinking that they're gonna win because those guys are giving them really gutsy performances."
Blake Davey gave the pitching and defense all the run support that they would need when he crushed a three run homerun to left field off Owls pitcher Travis Bergin in the fourth inning.
Davey partially credited the homer to his insight on Bergin, who was his teammate last summer on the Bourne Braves of the Cape Cod League.
"Fortunately I played the whole summer with Travis Bergin, and knowing his style, knowing that he likes to go fastball early and show he's not afraid to get that over and I looked for it, got a good pitch, and put a good swing on it."
Max McDowell, who played left field for the first time in his UConn career, added a solo shot in the seventh inning, which was his first home run of the season and the sixth of his career.
The final game of the series saw UConn get a bit sloppy, making three errors and managing just six hits while striking out 12 times on their way to a 6-1 loss.
Starting pitcher Jordan Tabakman (1-1) picked up the loss, going six innings and giving up six runs (four earned) on eight hits.
For Kennesaw State, starting pitcher Gabe Friese did a good job of quieting the UConn offense, holding them to one run on six hits and a walk while striking out seven.
Chris Erwin, who hit third for the Owls and went 3-4 with two runs and an RBI, pitched the last three innings, giving up just one walk and striking out five.
The lone run came on Davey's third home run of the year in the 6th inning.
Despite the tough ending to the series, the team and fans alike should be excited moving forward as it seems that the team is really coming into their own.
The 4-5 Huskies travel to sunny Miami to take on 7-5 Florida International, who took two of three games from No. 25 Tennessee to start the year. First pitch Friday will be at 7:00 pm, Saturday's game will be at 6:00 pm, and Sunday's game will begin at 1:00 pm. You can listen to the games on 91.7 FM or WHUS.org. Chris Jones will be on the call.